photo by: Kate Laraine Photography
I was sitting in my oncologist’s office for what they call an “education” appointment. It is when they go over your treatment plan, in depth. You talk about all the chemotherapy drugs that you will be given, and the four pages of side effects that are associated with those drugs. It is a long appointment and there were so many times while sitting there that I was like, this is really fucking happening! There are graphs and diagrams and percentages thrown out there. There are best case scenarios. The one thing that I appreciate, and feel grateful for, is the fact that both my oncologist and my nurse navigator have both had cancer. So when they talk to me, they speak from experience.
Now at this appointment I had my hair down and straightened. I think this was the first time I didn’t have it thrown up in a top knot, so when we got to the part about alopecia being a side effect my doctor said “I had no idea that your hair was this long, so this kills me to tell you that you are going to lose it”. All of a sudden my doctor and nurse started talking very calmly and maybe even slowly at this point, going over my options when losing my hair. Saying things like “there are some really great wigs”, hats, cold capping, scarves. To which I really heard none of it. I had known I was going to lose my hair, and from the very beginning I didn’t care. Did I want it to happen? Hell no. But is this the treatment that will save my life? Potentially. So I looked at my doctor and said “it’s just hair”.
After that appointment I talked with so many women in and out of treatment who had different opinions about things. Some tried the cold capping, others let their hair fall out on its own, some shaved their heads, some wore wigs, and some rocked the bald head. I knew from the beginning that I would want to just go with the bald head. I think the people most concerned with me losing my hair were the kids. Ace was so nervous, and at times angry when we would talk about it. Pierce didn’t know what to think. Avalon was not happy about it one bit. And Odette didn’t care one way or the other. I got some books for the kids to read, written from a childs perspective on breast cancer. It put into simple terms what was going to happen when I started treatment.
But nothing can really prepare you.
A week after my first chemo treatment I started to notice more and more hair falling out. From what people told me, this was early. Most of the women I talked to said they didn’t start to lose their hair until after their second treatment, and some even made it to their third. But since my skin pretty much freaked out after treatment one, I wasn’t too surprised with the hair loss. And sure enough day by day there was more hair falling out. I knew I wanted to donate as much hair as I could, so I didn’t want to let it keep falling out. I kept trying to wear it up in a lose bun so it wouldn’t get everywhere. Ace was not so happy when there were a few rogue hairs found in his lunch box. Ha!
So on a Wednesday I believe it was, I took my hair out of the bun and a huge chunk of hair fell to the ground. It was much more than a handful. I was a little in shock. I knew this was the day we had to shave it or there wouldn’t be enough to donate. I texted Chris to see if he could make it home at a decent hour so the kids could be there for the shaving. I knew it was going to be such a huge change for them and I didn’t want them to just wake up to it the next morning. I needed them to be involved.
Once I picked them up for school, we talked about it. They said they wanted to help shave my head. And I thought that was a great idea. Maybe having them shave some would make it less scary. When Chris got home, it was time. Usually it is me cutting Chris’s hair every Sunday, but I was the one in the chair. The kids all standing in the doorway visibly nervous. Chris first cut off the braid that I would be donating. 19 inches was put in a bag. Pierce started crying, and I was then holding back tears. Not for myself, but for my kids. We got the clippers out and asked the kids if they wanted to go first, they said no. Chris on the other hand was very excited about it all. He made the first pass on the side of my head and Ace didn’t think he could watch. Avalon started yelling “daddy you cut her hair off”. Pierce was still crying. I didn’t know if I would be able to hold back tears, so I just closed my eyes. Chris made a couple more passes, and then passed the clippers to Ace. He was nervous but he started cutting. His frown changed to a smile. And one by one the other kids jumped right in until all the hair was gone. Ace said, “you still look like you mom”.
Walking around with the buzz cut was not so bad. It was a change for the people who knew me just the day before, but had no idea I had breast cancer. As the hair continued to fall out and you just have bald patches all over your head, you look a little crazy. There were times I felt like I needed to just tell people I had cancer. Maybe it would make me feel better. I don’t know. Now that it is just about all gone (the back doesn’t seem like it wants to let go) I am used to it. Dare I say at times I even like it. It sure as hell makes getting ready a whole lot easier. Now drawing on eyebrows that aren’t crooked takes the most time.
It is hard to have something like your hair, a security blanket of sorts, stripped away from you. To have to go out and look different. To have your kids nervous FOR YOU because they think people will laugh at you. Or even for your kids to have to answer questions from their friends like, what happened to your moms hair?
It is hard. But what I am learning throughout this process is, I can do hard things.